This is book 3 in the series starting with Maisie Dobbs, followed by Birds of a Feather. I think the series gets better with each installment. Maisie is a former nurse who served in France during WWI. She has her dragons that are kept at bay through her hard work at her own detective agency, but in this book she is forced to face them as she travels to France on an assignment.
Pardonable Lies is set in England and France in 1930. Part of the magic of this series is that you feel like you are in the same time period while you are reading. Winspear captures the mood of the age through her description of fashion, decor, and through the dialogue spoken between the characters. You really get a sense of what is 'proper'.
Another reason I enjoy this series is the well-written, tightly woven mystery. Maisie works on 3 separate assignments in this story, but each provides insight that helps solve the others. On a more personal level they provide Maisie with important lessons in settling the past and moving on with her life.
Maisie mentor, Maurice, is present more in this book than the last two. At one point he gives Maisie the following advice: "(There is) the task that we are all sent to accomplish in each other's lives. It is a task of which we have no conscious awareness, but it is there all the same."
More advice from Maurice: "Consider your discomfort and welcome it as the ache necessary for you to become more deeply attuned."
Again, from Maurice: " As time passes we find that the clothes of the past do not fit, do not serve us anymore. As you grew, as you matured, the cloak of recovery ceased to coveryour pain, your guilt at survival."
I liked the imagery of this passage: Maisie turned her thoughts to her investigation, which was proceeding like liquid in a funnel, pouring toward an ever-narrowing point until captured in the cup below.
Just one more passage that caught my attention: Talk went back and forth in such a way that an observer might have been reminded of a tennis game on a summer's day, played not for a wager, or particularly to win, but for the pleasure of connection.
I felt pampered as I indulged myself in reading a mystery after so many months on classics and other pursuits. It was truly a pleasant pastime.